South Korean antitrust chief says Google has undermined competition


October 22, 2020

By Heekyong Yang and Hyunjoo Jin

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s antitrust chief said on Thursday the agency believes U.S. search engine giant Google has undermined competition, adding that the agency plans to present a case to its review committee this year.

The U.S. government lodged an antitrust lawsuit against Google on Tuesday, and the company is facing growing criticism from some lawmakers in South Korea who accuse it of abusing its dominant market position.

Joh Sung-wook, head of the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC), said that it was investigating allegations that Google restricts competition in the mobile application market and operating system market. The KFTC plans to send one of those cases to the deliberation committee by the end of this year, she said, without specifying which.

“When the KFTC looks at Google, there is an act that hampered competition,” Joh told lawmakers in an annual parliamentary audit.

The committee will make a final decision as to whether any laws have been violated, and could fine the company, order corrective measures or bring a prosecution.

Google could not immediately be reached for comment.

Google is under investigation for allegedly blocking local smartphone makers such as Samsung Electronics from using other operating systems, as well as forcing developers to publish their games only to Google’s Play Store, according to an official at the agency and a lawmakers’ document.

South Korea is ranked near the top in terms of app revenue and the average number of apps installed per year, thanks to the world’s most advanced mobile infrastructure, according to a blog post by a Google official.

In the home market of Android phone makers Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics, Google Play Store revenue in South Korea stood at nearly 6 trillion won ($5.29 billion) in 2019.

Jo also said the agency would investigate Google’s plan to charge 30% commissions for in-app purchases made through its application store.

(Reporting by Heekyong Yang and Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Alex Richardson)





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Michelle O’Neill admits public health message undermined by funeral


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Potential breaches of coronavirus regulations at Bobby Storey’s funeral on 30 June caused a row at Stormont

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has acknowledged Stormont’s public health messaging capacity was undermined by the controversy around Bobby Storey’s funeral.

She said she regrets that large numbers attended the veteran republican’s funeral in June.

Ms O’Neill was among those who attended, despite Covid-19 restrictions.

Other parties said their credibility was undermined.

After the funeral, First Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster suspended her practice of hosting a joint news conference with Ms O’Neill when delivering Covid-19 updates.

Ms O’Neill told RTÉ News on Wednesday evening that she hopes the practice can be restored for a challenging winter.

Responding to Ms O’Neill’s comments on Thursday morning, Ms Foster said it was “right” that she had “acknowledged the undermining of the public messaging as a result of what happened, and the deep hurt and anger that was caused”.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach (Irish PM) Micheál Martin welcomed the statement.

Ms O’Neill acknowledged Stormont’s public health messaging capacity had been undermined by the row.

She said: “It wasn’t my intention this would happen, but it did, I accept this and I regret this is the case.

“I accept that we have not been able to deliver clear messaging in the format that was the practice before this controversy.”

Mrs Foster said “those who set the rules must abide by the rules”.

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Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill have not delivered a joint Covid-19 briefing since Bobby Storey’s funeral

She said the investigations into what happened at the funeral must continue, and she looks forward to their conclusions “as soon as possible”.

She added that it was now “vital” to move forward and deal with the pandemic “on the basis that our messages are clear and that the actions of everyone in leadership do nothing to undermine the collective efforts to beat COVID-19”.

Mr Martin told RTÉ the funeral did “damage to public confidence in the administration at the time”, adding the response from Sinn Féin “for far too long was one of denial”.

He said: “It should have happened earlier but it has happened and I welcome it.”

Could Stormont’s leaders now return to the podium?

Analysis by BBC News NI political reporter Jayne McCormack

The timing of this admission by Michelle O’Neill makes it more significant.

It comes just a day after health officials delivered the starkest warning yet about the latest rise in Covid-19 cases, with Stormont ministers set to decide which restrictions to re-impose later today.

Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill have not stood side-by-side at the press podiums for more than two months but this seems directed at bringing an end to that stalemate.

It is early days but given the DUP leader’s insistence that she would not resume the briefings with Ms O’Neill until there was a “recognition” that the credibility of the executive’s messaging had been breached, this might just be enough.

Some within the DUP may welcome it; others still won’t feel it’s what they had called for.

But it’s the party leadership that will have the final say.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said she acknowledged the number of people at the funeral gave rise to public concerns.

She said: “Michelle, I think, is making clear an important point.”Firstly her regret, and our regret, that any undermining would occur to the public health messaging.

“And also the fact that we need now, a joint effort across the island, and in the north between all of the parties in the Executive, to stand on a common platform.”

‘Significant and helpful’

DUP MP for Upper Bann Carla Lockhart accused Michelle O’Neill of “breathtaking arrogance” on Twitter.

She said “The consequences of their blatant disregard for the public health message is evidenced in the case count, yet sorry seems to be the hardest word.”

But Alliance MP for North Down, Stephen Farry, said Ms O’Neill’s were “significant and helpful”.

Michelle O’Neill’s party colleague and South Down MP Chris Hazzard said it was a “positive step”, and that is was “right that Michelle has recognised and went on record to say that the fallout from that event in the summer had an impact on the public health message at the executive.”

Speaking to BBC Radio Foyle, Mr Hazzard said: “Hopefully now the executive can speak with one voice again to our local community in what does look like a difficult winter to come.”

‘Not currently investigating’

Meanwhile, the DUP has criticised the Police Ombudsman for “a failure” to investigate how the PSNI handled the funeral.

NI’s Chief Constable Simon Byrne said police had forwarded a complaint from a member of the public regarding police actions leading up to the funeral on 30 June.

But the Police Ombudsman said it was not currently investigating the issue.

“We have not received any complaints from anyone with direct experience of the policing of a funeral in relation to Covid regulations, and are not currently investigating this issue,” said a spokesperson.

DUP MLA and NI Policing Board member Joanne Bunting said it was “a weak defence for not acting”.

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Sinn Féin’s leader and deputy leader attended the funeral, along with former leader Gerry Adams (centre)

Following a meeting with Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson on Tuesday, the East Belfast representative said: “The PSNI must be held fully accountable not just for proactive steps its officers take but for clear failures to act when public safety is at stake.”

She said there was “deep unease” among many of those who elected her over “the Police Ombudsman’s failure to provide scrutiny of PSNI inaction against large republican funerals which breached lockdown restrictions”.

“This is in contrast to the commissioned PONI investigation into police practice which led to the issuing of fixed penalty notices at Black Lives Matter protests during the same period,” she added.

“Such inconsistency does little to restore confidence in the role or added value of the Police Ombudsman’s Office.”

Following the funeral, Mr Byrne requested an external senior police officer oversee an investigation into potential breaches of Covid-19 restrictions.

Mark Webster, Cumbria Constabulary’s deputy chief constable, was appointed to oversee and direct the PSNI’s investigation into potential breaches of Covid-19 restrictions and also help review events leading up to the date of the funeral.



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The spirit of Victoria is being undermined by those with agendas


Daniel Andrews has done just that. His decisions have always been based on the best medical advice available, including initially moving faster to stage 3 restrictions and instituting remote learning for all Victorian primary and secondary students. He has risen to the occasion during 2020, moving from extensive bushfires at the start of the year to now a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and he has given his all to Victoria, always acting in the best interest of all Victorians.

Most Victorians have responded magnificently to the COVID-19 crisis despite the burden of job losses, stretched finances, learning at home for students, frustrated social lives and disrupted holidays. But while most accept the fact we are all in this together, a minority continues to undermine the state’s overall effort, questioning or attacking nearly every decision and picking away at the state’s spirit.

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Sure, mistakes have been made in Victoria (hotel quarantine) and NSW (the Ruby Princess cruise ship), and these issues have been or are subject to judicial inquiries. The public deserves answers from independent investigations, not just a few six-second responses at media conferences from the politicians involved.

But as a former and proud leader of Victoria for eight years, my concern is that pride in the state, the spirit of Victoria, is being torn at by those with agendas that go beyond the standard scrutiny of the political process. Detailed actions against the virus, including restrictions, are too often twisted into responses that it’s “too confusing”, rather than concentrating on the simple instruction to stay at home if you can.

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Some critics have flip-flopped on whether restrictions should be eased or tightened, arguing that the virus will “only” kill our older generation. Some have teed off at the government over whether the game of golf can be played or not. One MP even called for the culling of bats in Melbourne.

Returning to stage three restrictions pleases few. But it had to occur to try to suppress the virus and stop the health system being overwhelmed, as has happened in the US, where doctors have to sometimes choose who gets a life-saving ventilator and who doesn’t.

The virus thrives on people and division, and that division undermines the work of many thousands of workers and volunteers doing their best with the best intentions.

No country or state chooses to have a virus. But once it’s arrived, by aeroplane or ship, so infectious and working its way through the community, there is no option but to band together and enact the medical advice against it.

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Since 1910, Victoria has had a coat of arms, featuring a kangaroo holding a crown above the Southern Cross, bookended by two proud female figures, representing the state’s motto: Peace and Prosperity.

Working together, we can live up to that motto.



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How a lack of diversity undermined Victoria’s coronavirus response


Suitable-wing media is blaming a COVID-19 spike in Victoria on multiculturalism, but a deficiency of diversity is the much more possible culprit.

(Graphic: AAP/Daniel Pockett)

Just when factors seemed to be returning to normal, an alarming spike in coronavirus instances has hit Victoria.

With group transmission spreading via protection guards, GP clinics and massive family gatherings, the state is scrambling to get points back again less than manage. 

Why did Victoria, a condition which locked down harder and much more cautiously than any other, get strike by a new spike? The reply could be down to shifting conduct as constraints loosened, or sheer lousy luck. 





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Obama-Era Officials ‘Undermined’ Trump — ‘The Biggest Thing Since Watergate’



Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) on Friday weighed in on the release of a list of Obama administration officials that sought to unmask former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Cornyn said on Fox News Channel’s “America’s Newsroom” that the scandal by then-President Barack Obama’s officials to “undermine” President-elect Donald Trump and his upcoming presidency is “the biggest thing since Watergate.

“Well, there has to be answers,” Cornyn told host Ed Henry. “This is a scandal of really, if we weren’t involved in the COVID-19 crisis, this would be a scandal of the biggest thing since Watergate.”

He expounded on his comparison to Watergate, “[F]irst of all, you see a series of events occur from the time that President Trump was elected designed to undermine his presidency and try to remove him from office, convict him of a crime. We’ve seen impeachments, criminal investigations — you name it. And now we find that a number of Obama-era individuals have unmasked an American citizen whose name was collected during the course of … foreign intelligence surveillance and then leaked to the press in order to undermine the president and in order to justify this special investigation. And this is a very serious matter.”

Follow Trent Baker on Twitter @MagnifiTrent





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